Sunday, April 25, 2010

Enlightenment at the stop sign

We were at my least favorite store in the world (but the only one to really shop at) and as we were leaving with a trunk mostly full of pop, paper towels, juice and goldfish crackers we drove up to the stop sign where there was a man holding a sign that said "just need a little help." He waved to me as we made eye contact and I waved back...but no money changed hands. Heartless?

This man and I had become acquainted one very long night in the ER at the local hospital. As I sat in the wheel chair for hours that night in pain I could no longer bear I met this man. He stumbled in with his back pack and a tattered coat - it was very snowy, I wondered how he had stayed warm. He was clearly under the influence of one thing or another as he plopped himself down in a chair and began loudly talking to whomever would listen that he was going to treatment. This disclosure, needless to say, did not surprise me. There is a treatment location in town that he was aiming to be admitted to, my guess was this was more motivated by a need for a warm place to sleep then to get "clean" - not that I blamed him, there was inches of snow on the ground. When we finally were taken back to the ER to a curtained off bay I soon heard his voice again in the room not too far away. Apparently his blood alcohol level was too high to be admitted into treatment, so he stayed many hours to sober up enough to get clean.

I have seen this man on many times since then and he is always at that corner, holding that sign. Some people are fearful of these "beggars", some refuse to look them in the eye because for some reason once you make eye contact you feel somewhat responsible and then guilty for driving away. I make eye contact or smile as appropriate and there have been times where I have been very willing to stop and give "a little help" but with him, I drove on. I feel so opposed to aiding him in his addictions, whatever they are, that keep him living a life of chronic homelessness and dependence upon his drug or drugs of choice.

But, today- it was as if I was reading the sign for the first time. "Just need a little help" I very well could be the one carrying that sign on any given day - as could almost everyone I know. However, as the case may be, we don't ever walk around with a sign announcing to the world what our particular problem, crisis, issue is for that day - wouldn't life be easier if we all carried a sign like that? When you're having a bad day your sign could read "need a little help not losing my mind today, whatever you can do to help is appreciated." Or how about, "need a little help today not disliking my boss today...anything you can say that makes me dislike him less is appreciated." Or for a mom, "need a little help today with my angelic children that are acting like complete monsters and now I can't get a thing done around the house, a coupon to take them to McDonald's for a happy meal so I don't have to cook would be appreciated."

I sat there at the stop sign thinking to myself how glad I was that I didn't wear a sign that announced to the world how much help I needed at any given moment...what would people think of me if all that was presented in such a fashion? Suddenly as the light turned green and I was able to pass through the stop sign it hit "sign" is always in my heart for God to read and it is He whom I would benefit the most from in receiving "a little help" So, that's a pretty big gift for me today from the homeless man, I will pray for him that he can be reached by God and helped in ways that pocket change could never compare.

By the way, today my sign would read something like this: "Run out of gas, on empty. Just need a little help to see me through today. Any prayers are greatly appreciated."

How would yours read?


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